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Psychedelics Talk: The Importance of Integration for Psychedelic Journeys

Integration is arguably one of the most important aspects of a psychedelic journey, providing you the opportunity to deepen your understanding of the lessons, insights + teachings that came up. Whether you are engaged in our ketamine program, or are using psychedelics on your own, integrating your experiences is a key component of the process.

Before we get into why it is so important, including different ways to integrate, it's important to understand what integration is. It's a term that can often be thrown around within the psychedelic world, and often times, people are a little confused on what it actually means.

Integration is done after a psychedelic experience, usually the next day, or ideally within the next week (but we've even helped people integrate an experience years later!). This is because the insights are still fresh in your mind, and are often still coupled with some kind of emotional response. Integration is the process of making sense of, understanding, processing and integrating the information gathered from a journey into your day to day life. This is done in many different ways (read more below), and it really comes down to finding integration experiences that feel like they are the best route for you.

Why is integration important?

Imagine going to your favorite restaurant and ordering your favorite meal. You take the first bite, you experience the flavors and the taste, and then you spit it out. You don't swallow your food. And you continue eating in this way. You experience the taste of the food, but you leave the restaurant hungry (and if you're like me, angry that you're hungry). It seems kind of silly, right? Sure the flavor of your food was good, but you're still hungry and didn't get to experience the full meal.

Integration is (sort of?) like that. Imagine the actual psychedelic experience being like chewing your food - you get to move through insights, images and lessons. But if you leave it at that, you're still going to feel "hungry" for more. The integration process is the actual eating/swallowing of the food. It helps fill you up, leaving you feel more satisfied with the experience.

Having a psychedelic journey is great - it often comes with deep insightful experiences, and lessons, but if you do nothing with those experiences, then what was the point? Eventually what came up will fade into the past, with no real purpose in your life. This is why integration is so important to the process - you need to make sense of it all, and figure out ways to bring the lessons into your day to day life.

Ideas for Integration:

There's no right or wrong way to integrate your insights, but it may take some trial and error to see what works for you. Here's some of our top favorites:

  1. Integration Therapy: Probably not a surprising one, since it's one of the services we offer. But the majority of our clients express that this is the most supportive form of integration. Having the space to unpack your journey with a therapist that is trained in integration and psychedelic work can be a great way to make sense of the insights. Whether it's our clinic or another, ask your therapist what training and experience they have in psychedelic therapy. It requires (at least in our opinion) a certain degree of training but also intuition and insight on its own. Since you are tapping into your subconscious in a psychedelic journey, sometimes the messages will come up in obscure, coded ways, and it takes some time or understanding of the subconscious to make sense of it. Finding a therapist who understands concepts such as archetypal images and non-ordinary states of consciousness can really help deepen your understanding of the journey.

  2. Integration Community: Finding a community of others who have or are currently going through a similar experience is a fantastic way to integrate. Sharing your experiences within a group setting with others who get it and hearing others experiences can really deepen your lessons. New Earth Therapy offers a monthly in-person integration circle, which is co-facilitated by our amazing psychedelic therapy team, or you can create your own with friends and others in your life who are also using psychedelics for their growth.

  3. Re-visiting the Playlist: If you listened to a playlist on your journey (something we strongly recommend), listening to it in the days and weeks afterwards can be a great way to integrate. Listening to the songs while doing something mundane (such as dishes, cooking, gardening, etc) often times leads to a resurgence or remembering of insights or experiences. Re-living similar emotions or experiences can sometimes bring a deeper understanding of the original insight.

  4. Journalling: Writing down, or capturing, your experience immediately after a journey is such a great tool for integration. Try to write down everything you can remember: visuals, emotions, sensations, smells, etc. Sometimes the meaning of something that came up during a journey won't present itself until days, weeks or even months later, so ensuring you have captured the experience as in depth as possible will help you remember things in the future.

  5. Other non-ordinary states of consciousness: Psychedelics aren't the only way to access your subconscious! We recommend exploring other methods of going inwards, and bonus points if you pair the playlist from a journey with this. Some examples include breathwork (we have an amazing breathwork facilitator at our clinic who specializes in psychedelic and somatic breathwork, and often works with our integration team), meditation and sensory deprivation tanks (float tanks). Often times if you use another method of accessing your subconscious, you will experience the same insight again.

  6. Art: Some people are really artistic and creative and find that painting a picture of their experience is a great way to integrate. Capturing the visual experiences, colors, and even emotions on a canvas can be a meditative practice on its own, taking you back to the experience.

Integration often comes in layers, so don't expect to make complete sense of a journey with a 1 hour therapy session or a quick meditation. The remembering and understanding of insights will more than likely happen over time, and then you need to process and renegotiate things in your life from the understanding.

However you integrate a psychedelic journey, consider following New Earth Therapy's 6 steps to Integration:

  1. Remembering - if you journaled the experience, then you're off to a great start. Remembering what happened is sometimes difficult, but it's the first step. In order to make sense of it all, you need to first remember what came up.

  2. Understanding - once you remember what happened, you need to make sense of it. Talk to others, your therapist, your community, read books, look it up! Flip through dream analysis or archetypal image books to see what different images or objects mean to the subconscious. Try to connect the dots and understand why your subconscious brought something forward.

  3. Processing - Once you understand the meaning and the why, you probably will need to spend some time processing. Psychedelic journeys rarely bring up what we want, but they always bring up what we need. Sometimes this is a tough truth to face, and you may need some time to process the experience and the lesson(s).

  4. Renegotiating - This won't happen every time you integrate a journey, but often times a person needs the time and space and support to renegotiate something from the journey. An example of this is gaining new insight into a traumatic event, and needing to renegotiate how you view the event/yourself/an emotion or thought or belief or something else. Renegotiation often happens when a deep seated belief or idea is challenged during an experience, and this is often the hardest part to integration. With this in mind, we recommend a trained therapist or community support for this step.

  5. Recalibrate - Once you've renegotiated a belief, event, outlook, experience etc, and you've processed and accepted it, you need to recalibrate it to your life. If a big part of your belief system, conscious or life is now viewed differently, you need to recalibrate that into your day to day life. An example of this: let's say you went into a journey as an atheist, and you had an experience where you felt connected to God, which then led you to renegotiate your belief system, then you need to recalibrate that new belief system into your life. That may look like starting a spiritual practice, prayer or something else.

  6. A New Beginning - Once you've made sense of, processed + integrated lessons and insights into your life, it's time to move forward and continue integrating. Often times, integration is a long-term process, and you may find that you continue integrating a lesson for many years.

There are many other ways to integrate, and you may have found one or multiple that really work for you. We love hearing peoples experiences of how they made sense of a journey, so please feel free to share if you'd like.